U.S. soldier believed to be in North Korean custody after crossing border
A U.S. soldier is believed to be in North Korean custody after "willfully and without authorization" crossing the demarcation line into the country, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a press conference on Tuesday.
The latest: Austin said the soldier crossed over while he was on a tour, though the secretary stressed that the Pentagon was still investigating the incident.
What they're saying: Austin said he was "absolutely foremost concerned" with the soldier’s welfare. "We will remain focused on this, and this will develop in the next several days and hours."
- Austin said the Department of Defense was working on notifying the soldier's next of kin but did not reveal his identity.
The UN Command said in a tweet that the soldier crossed "the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea" during a tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA).
- "We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident," the tweet added, referring to North Korea's People's Army.
- The U.S. Department of State, National Security Council, and Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The big picture: The JSA straddles the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas and is the only point of contact between the two sides along the dividing line.
- The area is jointly overseen by the UN Command and North Korea, and has even become a popular tourist spot, per AP.
- The man detained Tuesday is the first known American to be detained by North Korea since Bruce Byron Lowrance, who was held in North Korean custody for a month in 2018, the New York Times reported.
- American Otto Warmbier died in 2017 shortly after being released by North Korea after spending 17 months in captivity.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to add comments from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.